The Shoestring process

The Shoestring approach is designed for any small-to-medium company that wants to start taking advantage of digitalisation, but doesn’t know where to start, and possibly isn’t ready to allocate much digital budget.  

Shoestring provides a quick step-by-step approach from identifying a company’s business needs right through to deploying an affordable digital solution that brings immediate efficiencies in the workplace. And once a company is happy with the Shoestring solution, having successfully set up their own pilot, they can then either role the solution out further, across more facilities for example, or add on more solutions to address their other business needs. 

Companies can start the process by contacting us to apply for an online in-company specification workshop which will highlight their company’s business priorities, and match these to a Shoestring solution. 

>> Register your interest


The Shoestring process usually begins with an in-company workshop which facilitates focussed discussions between three to four senior managers. These can take place online or in-person (depending on COVID-19 restrictions).  

These ‘specification workshops’ last around four hours and provide an opportunity for senior managers to discuss their business needs and the challenges the company and employees face, what would ease their workload, and which changes would be simplest to implement. 

Once a shortlist of three business needs have been identified the managers then choose the one which would be quickest to address with a Shoestring digital solution.  

By using an online Shoestring specification workshop, guided by a Shoestring researcher or consultant, companies then work through the challenges they face which are then matched to Shoestring digital solution areas such as process monitoring or job tracking.  

A series of evaluation exercises enables participants to rank their top three challenges, so that they can prioritise which one will be easiest to implement. In the second part of the workshop, a more detailed analysis provides a full specification for the chosen solution area, which in turn will deliver a Bill of Materials listing all the off-the-shelf technology required as well as a specification for the software output.  

Solutions can incorporate an ever-growing range of off-the-shelf devices, such as cameras, temperature sensors, scanners with low-cost computers, such as Raspberry Pi, and openly available data integration and analysis software programmes.  

Each solution is designed so that it can work alongside other Shoestring solutions, making it possible to add to each affordable solution incrementally. This enables the company to experiment with a digital solution, learn along the way, and keep experimenting by adding more Shoestring solutions.  

>> See some of the Shoestring solutions that have been trialled in real-world companies and view some of the demonstrators that the researchers have built

Once the digital needs assessment is done, the Shoestring portal configures the Bill of Materials, outputs the configured software and delivers instructions on how to install the solution. 

Shoestring researchers can help with installation and testing, depending on the level of in-house technical expertise. Since last year, on-site visits have not always been possible, so researchers have successfully provided online support.  

The necessity to help manufacturers remotely has made companies realise that there is a surprising amount of technical expertise, and enthusiasm, already within their companies. Shoestring has effectively provided a digital leadership tool, helping senior managers to harness and develop existing expertise.  

Some recent industry pilots have also involved third party solution providers and consultants, who can use the Shoestring tools to help their customers or other Shoestring partner companies, adopt low-cost digital solutions. 

Detailed instructions and training materials accompany each stage of the Shoestring process. In addition a series of short training courses are being devised to train up individuals to run Shoestring requirements workshops, in-company specification workshops as well as to use the Shoestring portal which delivers the solutions. The portal is built using a building block approach to programming so that no prior technical knowledge is required, and once trained users can deploy ready-made Shoestring solutions, and adapt existing solutions to fit unique company specifications.